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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Bullfrog Brewery in Williamsport, PA


Williamsport, PA's Bullfrog Brewery
I thoroughly enjoyed my weekend in Williamsport, PA in large part because Caroline knows me so well.  The planned activities for the weekend: pretty much nothing.  The suggested activities for the weekend: find cultural, local, and authentic restaurants and bars at which to eat and drink, then do so.  Oh, and play with Lola (Caroline's enormous and fantastic puppy) while we rubbed our bellies to recover from all the eating and drinking.  How could it get much better?  After all, it was pretty darn cold outside!  One of our first stops in Williamsport came at the Bullfrog Brewery.  This brewpub in downtown had plenty of character, so we went in, grabbed a seat, and ordered a couple pints.

Brew Kettles and Fermenting Tanks at the Bullfrog Brewery
I began with an Amarillo-ville American Wheat, one of the specialty brews on the menu.  It had a great hops flavor without being overpowering.  I'd certainly suggest it to those who are intimidated by pale ales and want to get their toes wet with hops before jumping in.  From there the logical decision was to order a sampler of various Bullfrog beers.

Beer Sampler at the Bullfrog Brewhouse and Eatery
Like a lot of craft breweries, I generally preferred the beers more as I moved down the line from light to dark.  Particularly of note from Bullfrog were the Apricot Wheat and the Pumpkin Stout.  The Apricot Wheat had a fruity nose that went away slightly upon taste.  I liked that the apricot flavor did not overshadow the beer and make it taste like juice.  Bravo.  The Pumpkin Stout had similar characteristics in that the pumpkin and pumpkin spices did just enough to let you know this was no ordinary stout, but they let the craft beer do most of the talking on my taste buds.

Bullfrog Bruschetta
While quenching our thirst with refreshing brews, it dawned on Caroline and I that we should probably eat as well.  We started things off with an order of the Bullfrog Bruschetta.  The dish consisted of diced tomatoes, feta cheese, kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil, garlic, olive oil and cracked pepper. After placing the spread on some sliced focaccia bread I flew the plane to the hanger, so to speak.  The bruschetta actually impressed me a fair amount.  Light, refreshing, fresh, and pretty delicious.

The Pittsburger
Still, I couldn't resist going from that reasonably healthy bruschetta to a greasy, beefy burger.  The Pittsburger caught my eye since I did happen to be in Pennsylvanian at the time.  This contribution to the burgering world combined bacon, provolone, grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, lettuce, tomato, and cole slaw.  Added to that were some pretty fantastic garlic fries.  I'm not a huge cole slaw fan, but it actually worked on the burger.  The beef had plenty of juice while all the other toppings were piled high enough to fall off the bun at times.  Despite being rather tricky to eat, the Pittsburger got my approval.  Then I washed it down with more beer.

Bullfrog Brewery on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 21, 2011

Appalachian Brewing Company, Harrisburg, PA



Volks Weizenbock from Appalachian Brewing
On the drive from Baltimore to Williamsport with Caroline, we stopped in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to grab a couple beers at the Appalachian Brewing Company.  The brewpub is one of the largest in the country so stopping by just made sense.  I began with a pint of one of their specialty brews, the Volks Weizenbock.  The beer had a strong alcohol content but remained considerably drinkable from start to finish.

We soon ordered a couple appetizers that reminded me of typical northern food.  I already realized that I missed Louisiana cooking.  We ordered a round of Canadian Poutine as well as some "Craisy" Baked Bree.  The poutine is apparently a version of cheese fries that are made with steak fries, cheddar cheese curds, and brown gravy.  I'm all about giving things a try but these just weren't really very appetizing at all.  The bree tasted alright as it came with walnuts, craisins, and some ginger infused honey.  However, they served it with plain white toast... quite a disappointed accessory to such a flavorful spread.  I'm glad we just got some appetizers and beer, because I have a feeling a full meal would have been even more disappointing.

Oh well... I wasn't there for the food!  Time for more beer.  Naturally, since this was my first time at the brewery, I ordered the sample.  Delicious!  Now this was a good choice.  The Jolly Scot Scottish Ale easily rose to the top of my favorite list, followed by the Susquehanna Stout.  All of the beers were certainly drinkable in my book so taking them down didn't prove to be much of a problem!  Cheers!!

Beer Sampler at the Appalachian Brewing Company

Appalachian Brewing Company on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 17, 2011

11 Things I’m Excited to Eat and Drink in 2011


This article has been published in the January 2011 issue of Town Favorites Magazine. You can visit the Town Favorites website at http://www.townfavorites.com/, follow them on Twitter @TownFavorites, "Like" them at Facebook.com/TownFavorites, and find their magazines at over 150 restaurants and businesses around Baton Rouge! Pick up a copy today!

11 Things I’m Excited to Eat and Drink in 2011
By Jay D. Ducote

2011 is sure to bring renewed resolutions and fresh starts when it comes to diets and detox, but I’d prefer to kick off the New Year by thinking about 11 local items I can’t wait to eat and drink. Some of these are relatively new items in the Baton Rouge food and beverage scene, and some are old staples that will bring back memories of 1984, but still, all should be mouthwatering, enticing, and crowd pleasing in 2011. In no particular order, here are my picks:

BBQ Beef Sandwich at KickersBBQ
BBQ Sandwiches from KickersBBQ
KickersBBQ provides barbeque on wheels, and it is obvious that Tony and Nani know what they are doing. Their street eats have quickly rolled to the top of the BR BBQ scene. It is a hard call between the pulled pork or brisket sandwiches, but either way you’ll be happy you tracked them down! And if you are feeling adventurous, you could also try a Tex-Mex hotdog!

Nani, Jay, and Tony show off some BBQ!
King Cake
Louisiana isn’t short of seasonal foods, and one of my favorites is King Cake around Mardi Gras time. I usually opt for a little cream cheese filling or a classic cinnamon cake. Ambrosia Bakery makes one my favorites in town, but it is usually hard to go wrong with any of them! Good luck finding that baby and getting to buy the next cake for the house or office!

Boiled Crawfish 
Speaking of seasonal cuisine, Louisiana Crawfish are about as good as it gets. Every Spring I look forward to devouring quite a few pounds of mudbugs, and 2011 will be no different. Whether you get your crawfish from a local restaurant or you boil them yourselves, just roll up your sleeves and start peeling! I can taste the spices already!

Chef Eusebio Gongora and Travis Ducote dump a batch of boiled crawfish onto the table at the Third Row Crawfish Boil
Cocktails at Galatoire’s Bistro
Expert bartender Brian Thom mixes up some of the best custom cocktails in Baton Rouge. Check out their Sazerac or even opt for the New Orleans Belle Martini. While it might be pink in color, it still packs a mighty punch. The martini is made from house-infused mango pepper vodka, Cointreau, pomegranate juice, and fresh squeezed lime and orange.

New Orleans Belle Martini at Galatoire's Bistro
Pho
Sadly I’m not all that experienced with the Vietnamese soup called Pho (fuh), but that will certainly change in 2011. I’m hoping to become a regular at Pho Quynh and Tasty Casian where I will consume bowl after bowl of that traditional noodle soup.

Craft Beer from the Tin Roof Brewing Company
From their new brewery in an old warehouse off of Nicholson Drive, William and Charles have brought Baton Rouge their own craft brew, and I’m excited to drink it. Whether you opt for the Perfect Tin Amber or my personal choice, the Voodoo Bengal Specialty Pale Ale, you might as well quench your taste buds all around town with these delightful local suds!

Tin Roof's Perfect Tin Amber
Raw Oysters
In 2010 Gulf oysters had quite a setback with the oil spill. In order to make up for lost time, I think the best thing we could do is eat an unprecedented amount of oysters in 2011. I’ll probably sit at the bar in quite a few restaurants and eat them raw by the dozen. Some of my favorite places for oysters are The Chimes, Mike Andersons, Mason’s Grill, and ACME, but I’ll be happy to meet you anywhere there is shucking going on!

Coffee from A Coffee Truck 
Not everything I drink in 2011 can be alcohol, so I might as well find the trendiest place to get my caffeine fix. A Coffee Truck started rolling around Baton Rouge in late 2010, and I’m excited to track them down more in 2011. Using the food truck model of being followed on social media, A Coffee Truck can be located using Twitter, Facebook, or by sniffing out the ground espresso beans. They are sure to have something to perk you up!


Honey Bourbon
Then again, I guess I could have a little more booze. Here’s one of my favorites: honey bourbon! Juban’s makes fantastic honey bourbon out of Knob Creek Kentucky Bourbon and fresh honey comb. I’ll drink that every time I’m there. However, in 2011 I also intend to make some of my own. I’ll use some honey comb from the Bocage Bee and Honey Company and some great bourbon, and see what I can come up with. Cheers!

Praline Bacon and Pork Belly Preserves at Curbside Truck 
There are few more beautiful combinations of words than “praline bacon.” Just the thought of that sweet candy and savory meat combination makes my mouth water. At Curbside Truck, yet another one of Baton Rouge’s mobile eateries, you can enjoy a delicious cheeseburger topped with praline bacon. And if that doesn’t quite do it for you, they also have a magical little spread called pork belly preserves. Or, you can do what I do, and get both of them!

A burger with praline bacon and pork belly preserves from Curbside Truck
Duck
Finally, in 2011 I look forward to eating a lot of duck. Yes, it may slightly because of viral videos and the fact that the LSU Tigers play the Oregon Ducks in Dallas to kick off the 2011 football season, but Duck is also extremely tasty! You can find duck meat in gumbos, crepes, tacos, and more. Chef Eusebio Gongora at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar also cooks up an amazing duck appetizer on occasion or has a blueberry glazed duck breast on the featured mixed grill. However you find it, just make sure to join me in feasting on feathered fowl this year!


Jay D. Ducote is the author of the blog Bite and Booze, which chronicles his culinary and indulgent cultural experiences around Baton Rouge, South Louisiana, and the world. It can be found at www.biteandbooze.com. You can also reach him by email at jay@biteandbooze.com, like the Bite and Booze fan page on facebook.com/biteandbooze, and follow him on Twitter @biteandbooze
Thanks to Eric Ducote of BRBeerScene.com for taking all the pictures for this article.

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Curbside (Mobile Truck) on UrbanspoonKickers BBQ (Mobile Truck) on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Peru in Baltimore: Chicken Rico


A recent trip to visit Caroline in Pennsylvania had me routed through the Baltimore airport thanks to a Southwest Airlines buddy pass from the one and only Amanda Ball.  Since I had a couple hours to kill in Baltimore before Caroline could come pick me up, I gave drinking and sailing pal Doug Avnet a call to see if he could join me for lunch.  Fortunately for me, he could; and he knew exactly where to take me.  I met Doug around Camden Yards on a snowy Baltimore afternoon.  We hopped in his cab and took off towards Chicken Rico, a Peruvian chicken joint on Eastern Avenue.  Baltimore is a city known for being rather multicultural, and one tour down Eastern showed why.  I'm used to "Latin" restaurants meaning Mexican, Tex-Mex, or possibly a little Mexican-Cajun fusion, but is rare to see authentic Cuban, Peruvian, Honduran, and more.  I knew I was in for a treat!

Clearly, charbroiled chicken highlighted the menu.  Whole  roasted chickens revolved continuously over red-hot charcoal on a rotisserie spit.  As the birds slow-cooked to hot, juicy goodness, customers could see exactly where their food was coming from.  The chickens were rubbed with Peruvian spices to give them proper flavor.  When ordered, the staff takes a plump chicken and chops it up with a cleaver right in front of you.  Doug and I ordered a "family special" that came with a whole chicken, two sides, and a few beverages.  Within about ten seconds the chicken had be deconstructed into eighths and piled onto a platter.  For side items we opted for thick-cut fries as well as fried plantains.

A whole charbroiled bird, fries, and fried plantains from Chicken Rico
I tried Inca Kola for a change of taste
The chicken exploded with juices on first bite.  The tender and moist meat had a great flavor with more herbs and spices under the skin.  Each bite pulled off the bones of the bird and made my stomach extremely happy.  The fries and plantains were just okay though.  I would try something else if I went back to see if any of the other side items were any better.  In the end , after I ate half a chicken, it's not like I really needed any sides!  I also tried Inca Kola, a carbonated beverage that Chicken Rico had in their cooler.  I figured I might as well drink something that I've never had before.  I don't know that I'd choose Inca Kola again, but they at least wet my whistle while I enjoyed the chicken!

Chicken Rico on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 10, 2011

Bob's Burgers (Fatburger) in Las Vegas, NV


Thanks a Brunch Burger at Bob's Burgers (Fatburger) in Las Vegas, NV
I have to applaud the creativity of the marketing team responsible for this one.  As a campaign to promote the new animated TV show "Bob's Burgers" on Fox, they've temporarily renamed the old-school burger joint Fatburger as Bob's Burgers.  I happened to be Las Vegas this past weekend and decided that I ought to stop in and check it out!  I actually ate at Bob's Burgers on the day of its premier episode!  If you don't know what I'm talking about, you can watch a teaser clip here:


Fatburger in Las Vegas is temporarily Bob's Burgers
Bob's Burgers (AKA Fatburger) is an classic burger stand with some pretty decent burgers.  I ordered the "Thanks a Brunch Burger" which came with a fried egg and bacon in addition to all the other traditional toppings.  Naturally, I ordered mine without pickles.  I also opted for the homemade onion rings instead of the steak fries or thin-cut fries.  I'm pretty sure that decisions worked out for the best because the onion rings were mighty tasty.

Homemade Onion Rings with the Thanks a Brunch Burger
The burger itself was a little over 5 oz of beef (their medium sized burger).  It didn't have the lick-your-fingers kind of juiciness that I really enjoy, but the fried egg and bacon made up for the semi-dryness of the ground beef.  There's something about putting a fried egg on a burger, or any other sandwich for that matter, that really appeals to me these days.  Maybe it's just a fad... but I'm loving it (global fast food giant marketing slogan's pun intended).

Fatburger... I mean Bob's Burgers... sits right on The Strip for a cheaper meal option when you've had your fill of prime rib buffets.  While the burger, onion rings, and a drink still ran me over $10, I thought it to be worthy of that price, considering the location.

So the marketing plan got me in the door, and it made me want to watch the show.  The burger and onion rings were deemed worthy enough for me to write a post about them.  Now we just have to hope that Bob's Burgers is actually an entertaining addition to Fox's Animation Domination!




Fatburger on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

FoodBlogSouth

On January 22, Jeremy (Faire Les Courses) and I will be attending FoodBlogSouth in Birmingham, Alabama. The one day conference will cover great topics like:
  • Why Southern Food is Trendy Across the USA
  • Blogging about Southern Seafood After the 2010 Oil Disaster
  • Food styling and photography
  • Blog to Book: Becoming a published author 
  • Hungry for More: How Blogging Keeps Customers Coming Back for More
  • Reviewing restaurants
I'm pretty excited to see what I can learn, network with a bunch of my peers, and make some new friends.  If you are interested in attending FoodBlogSouth, make sure to check out their website!  Let me know if I can expect to meet up with you there!


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